Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lake Fort Scott Diary: Kayaking in the still

Even on a little lake like this one, there can be plenty of noise. The biggest, of course, are the motors on the powerboats and jet skis that speed around the lake, sometimes pulling skiers or tubes, sometimes just speeding around the lake. There are also barking dogs (occasionally mine!) and the motors on the lawnmowers, which people particularly seem to like to use in the mornings, before it gets too hot. I guess for the same reasons I like to go out in the kayak then; in summer my kayak trips are crepuscular, at dawn and dusk, when it is also quieter.

Tonight I went out just before sunset aimed across the wide, bigger part of the lake; cool enough at 7:15pm, with the lake mostly to myself except for one boat going back and forth with a couple alternating skiing and driving. I don’t mind water skiers that much, especially when there is only one. Sure, they make noise and wake just like the boats pulling tubes or the jet skis, but at least the noise and wake are not completely gratuitous. Someone is, at least, using both strength and skill, and that I admire. And this couple, not so young, were quite skilled, each going long distances before, apparently electively, going down. And the boat, while certainly going fast enough, didn’t leave a terrible wake. Fast enough, I guess, but not grossly overpowered, a low boat making waves that the kayak could handle.

But still, as I came toward home with the sun fading behind the trees, it was good to enter the little cove and leave that motor sound and wake behind. The barking dogs from the house on the point were not out, and the only real noise besides me was the increasing volume coming from the cicadas. There was still enough light to see, and I watched the water and the shore for movement, for many animals like to come out at this time of evening, when it is quiet.

There are a lot of things on a lake that can look like a bird or animal, especially along the shore, and in the coves, and in the shallows, and in the waning light. And the fact that the shapes don’t move doesn’t mean they aren’t alive for the animals are often still. There are the always-startling, but over quickly, jumps of fish. And the noses of the turtles sticking up above the water, motionless, for what seems like so long as they fill their lungs with air that I become doubtful and think they might actually be sticks. And then, suddenly, they disappear, sealing off their nostrils and going off to swim underwater.

The log poking up near the edge could be a bird, but on closer inspection it isn’t. The stump just in the woods off the shore is light colored, and shaped so that it might be a coyote or wolf or bobcat – or dog – sitting still.  But it is a stump. I look for the minks, and for the green heron that are often in this cove, but not tonight. The silent sticks and stumps are sticks and stumps.

Except the crooked stick rising out of the vegetation ahead of me – is it another false clue; certainly it isn’t moving. But as the kayak glides a little closer, it rustles and the stick turns 180 degrees. And  then my watch bangs the side of the kayak and up rises the huge shape of a great blue heron, so much bigger in flight as it wheels around the cove and away.

I watch it fly off, and then sit in the cove in the gloaming. The neighbor’s dogs are now out, and bark a bit, but desultorily. Soon it is just my kayak paddle and the cicadas as we head home.

This morning, sun rising, early, almost quiet, as I head south into the no-wake zone away from the water skier (so early), the only life I see on the shore are a pack of vultures on top of a dead tree. They like dead trees, so the foliage doesn’t obstruct their view of – dead animals. Then, below them, in the vegetation at the shore is unmistakably a blue heron. I stop paddling now, careful not to startle it, and then realize that the brown rock just past it on shore is grazing. The young deer raises its head to watch me glide by.

The stillness is broken by the noise and horn of a freight train passing through town a couple of miles away. Maybe it is the distance, but a train seems more natural, a part of the environment, unlike the power boat motors. And now, into the feeder stream, narrower, calmer, and less bright. Coming around a corner I startle a heron on the other side before I see it, and it flies off, across the double image of the trees of the forest and their mirrored reflection in the here-undisturbed glass-like water. Around another bend, there is life on the bank, and for a second my mind registers “big black birds in a group, some red near the top, must be turkey vultures”, and then almost instantly, “no”. They are too big and too ungainly and the red is more on their necks than their heads, and while a couple flap their wings, the really are running away from me up the bank. Not vultures, just turkeys, a flock (or "crop", "dole", "gang", "posse", or "raffle”) of wild turkeys.

Go out where it is still, stay quiet, and keep your eyes open.
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Brooklyn Nostalgia

The web is full of sites where people reminisce about the places they are from, especially when they don’t live there anymore and so can romanticize it a bit. Brooklyn, New York, where I am from, seems to be particularly a focus of such memories. One of them, complete with pictures, can be found at http://www.screanews.us/NewYork/BrooklynOld.htm.

This site has a lot of good pictures, and some very good memories. Of course, most of the text is hallucinatory (few or no one-parent families), often projecting ("this was my life, so I imagine it was that of others'"), and frequently stupid. The "good old days" were not always so good. There is even a book by Otto L. Bettmann called “The Good Old Days – They Were Terrible!” (Random House, 1974), reviewed here nearly 30 years after it was published. Another site compared various "good old days", going back generation by generation showing what seemed better in memory was not really a very good time. The conclusion on that site is that “the good old days” were never a time period but rather when you were a kid. It is not the time -- it is that things seemed simpler, and often better, and we repress the bad memories from -- when we were kids.

That said, our memories are our memories; we accept the things that are better and regret the things that we miss. However, it is fun to look back at our past, and at our youth, the good and the bad. As far as the Brooklyn described on the website above, at least the pictures are good. While the memories range from the 30's to the 60's, they seem to focus largely on the 50's, and there is a report card from Kindergarten (1a) in 1949, so I would guess that the person who put this together is probably in his very late 60s.

Many of these things were still around in my memory, although the prices were up. Subways were 15 cents when I started riding them; for a quarter, the newsstand guy at the Neck Rd station would give you the NY Times and a token in change. Phil Ochs wrote a song in the 60s about the "Daily News" with the lyric "7 little pennies in the newsboy's hand and you ride right along to never-neverland!", and I remember that it was a big deal when it went up from a nickel. There is an early picture of me wearing a Daily News "Strike" body placard, having gone with Uncle Benny (who worked there) on a picket line. And Uncle Benny would bring the Sunday News comics home on Saturday -- magic!

I remember pizza slices at 15 cents also, but the real treat was walking to Roma's Pizzeria on Avenue U just east (but if you had asked me I would have said "north" probably, since in that part of Brooklyn the “East” numbered streets increased from west to east; the numbers of the streets were going UP, so of course it would be north!) of Nostrand Ave to get a WHOLE pizza for dinner. And walk back with it 5 blocks. Toss-up as to whether this beat Brennan and Carr, hot roast beef sandwiches, on the opposite corner. Which I think is still there. (On the map, the area where I lived is the northern part of “Sheepshead Bay”, bleeding into southern part of what is labeled “Midwood”;  the angled street that crosses the border SW to NE is Kings Highway, which is what most people called that area; Avenue U is a few blocks to the south. Often the whole area north of Sheepshead Bay up to nearly Prospect Park was simply referred to as "Flatbush". For another take, see the 1974 movie "The Lords of Flatbush", which featured young Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, and Perry King!).

I remember the last of the straw-seat subway cars, the oldest on the Franklin Avenue Shuttle which ran for 3 stops and connected the Prospect Park station on the Brighton train (ours; then the Q, now the D) with the Independent train at Franklin Avenue (or so it said on the maps). Mostly I rode the one stop to the Botanic Gardens station in order to walk the long block down Eastern Parkway to the Brooklyn Museum; a couple of times to the second stop, Park Place, where the Brooklyn Children's Museum was (and, I am told, Brooklyn Jewish Hospital, where I was born, and now part of "Interfaith Hospital" having merged with St. John's).

I certainly remember the crowded beaches of Brighton and Coney Island, and Mrs. Stahl's (under the Brighton Beach subway station on Coney Island Ave and Brighton Beach Ave) and Shatzkin's (on the Boardwark in Coney Island around W. 38th St.? The same guys with the paper shopping bags with knishes in one hand were hefting a huge metal cooler on their other shoulder, picking their way among the jam-packed beaches (I can't even describe these -- ENORMOUS beaches, matched in size hardly anywhere in the world, hundreds of yards from boardwalk to ocean -- SOLIDLY packed with people, a couple of inches between their blankets!) shouting "Hot knishes! Cold drinks!"

We did play a little stickball, and more "Catch a fly is up" (later I heard it referred to as "One-o-Cat") in the street, as well as an odd version of baseball at the spot between our house and the Constantinos' where the narrow driveway on our side was home plate and lined up about midway across from the double driveway of the "rich" (read "attached single family, probably costing about $8000) houses across the street, which were 1st and 2nd bases on the corners. Pitcher stood in the middle, no bat but slapped the red rubber ball with your hand. That ball, a "spaldeen" (I understand because they were the discarded cores of Spalding tennis balls that were without hairy covers) were the mainstay of every game we played. In addition to the above, and a little hopscotch or potsy (is there a difference?), we had "two-box" (= "hit the penny”), "3-box" (also called "box baseball"), and "5-box" (a complex game involving bouncing the ball in each box). Also "off the wall" and Chinese handball (why "Chinese"?). And, of course, the mainstay because you could play it alone or with friends: stoop-ball (catch it on one bounce, 5 points; on the fly 10 points; off a “point”, 50 points – it comes at you fast – and off the top step point, 100 points! Or something like that.)

Movies were a quarter for a double-feature, at least on Saturday afternoons (take your sister!). And they were preceded by cartoons. And a nickel bought a candy bar, which went fast. Necco Wafers lasted forever, but had minimal taste. A compromise might be Jujyfruits, Jujubes, or Turkish Taffy, which stuck to your teeth and could be licked out for hours. Maybe that’s why I had so many cavities – or maybe it was because, as a dentist pointed out many years later, that NYC fluoridated its water sometime between the eruption of my “6-year molars” (full of cavities) and my “12-year molars” (very few). I do remember the unanesthetized pain of getting them filled, though!

I never had report cards like the guy on the website (I think he went to Catholic school). First of all, they were not A-F. We had (U)nsatisfactory, (N)eeds improvement, (S)atisfactory, and SO (really S°,  with a superscripted degree mark) that meant superior. I got a lot of S's, some SO's, and scarcely ever better than "N" in my two bete noirs, handwriting and Conduct (sometimes called “self-control”)! It seems to me that in Albany, when I was younger, we got graded in both "Ability" and "Effort". I will allow readers to decide which of these I received lower grades in.

I think those high schools in the pictures are Boys, Brooklyn Tech, and Erasmus Hall. I went to none of them. Bedford Ave was "HS row", being home to (south to north), James Madison (my alma mater, and that of 3 current or recent Senators and a Supreme Court justice, several sports figures, and Carol King – then Klein – and Chris Rock -- ok, this picture is from before my time!), Midwood, and Erasmus. Most of the newer HS (not Boys or Erasmus) were "U-shaped"; Tech was a full rectangle, and so big (8 floors!) on each floor than instead of numbering the rooms like 401-435 (as at Madison), they were numbered by corridor (e.g., 4W20).

As far as Coney Island amusements were concerned, when I was a kid Luna Park was gone, but Steeplechase was still there. I never liked the fast or scary or high rides, although decades later my son Matt managed to get himself really sick by riding (alone) the Cyclone several times. I did like Skee-Ball. And shooting. And another big thing was that there were Tuesday night fireworks in Coney Island all summer long, and we mostly watched from the roof of Grandma's building on E. 22d St. I remember when I first discovered somewhere, with pity, that there were places where there were only fireworks once a summer, on July 4.

And, while the website’s observation that most people in Brooklyn were Italian, Irish or Jewish might not have been completely true, I remember being quite surprised at some point in adolescence when I discovered there were White Protestants (Christians, but not Catholic and, unlike the non-Catholic Christians I knew, were not Black) -- an idea also expressed (obviously not stolen from me, but I had it way before I read it there) by the mayor-loosely-based-on-Ed-Koch in Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities".

The image of Brooklyn in the popular consciousness, and the memories of those who left it, change with the generations. The "Kid from Brooklyn" was a staple of World War II movies, tough, smart-alecky, and ethnic, often with a Jewish or Italian name. And relatively small, certainly smaller than the big Southern farmboy, another stock character. In the 1950s, when TV was new and based mostly in New York, both the writers and characters were often New Yorkers, and particularly Brooklynites. Shows like Jackie Gleason’s The Honeymooners (Irish working class folks living in an apartment that was sparse by any standard) and The Goldbergs (Jewish, and a little higher level working class) introduced (stereotypical) Brooklyn folks to the rest of the country.  There were a lot of smart kids from Brooklyn, many in important jobs all over the country.

And now Brooklyn is hip. Having transformed the winter hotels and apartments of Brooklyn retirees in Miami’s South Beach in the last 20 years, young “new” (=”often moved from elsewhere”) New Yorkers are filling the places those retirees came from, moving from the exorbitant rents of Manhattan and long-gentrified Park Slope to the slightly-less exorbitant rents of Brooklyn, filling the formerly Hasidic area of Williamsburg and the asbestos-shingled houses of Greenpoint and Red Hook with yuppies, and the leading edge now moving into – Bushwick! Of course, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be!
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lake Fort Scott diary: Boating, bumps and dogs

Yonkel is good at rustling. He can also make noise, or jump up on the bed, or, already on the bed, sit up suddenly. He can jump off the bed, wander around, loudly lap water, and in particular scratch himself assiduously, seriously jingling his dog tags. At the lake house, there are also the beaded curtains to the bedroom that he can make noise going back and forth through, although Fry, not a rustler, does this as well. Sometimes he does not do any of these distinctive actions, but just paces around, breathing, not randomly but right there by your bed. It is purposeful. He wants you to get up.


Why is not certain, but my hope at 6 in the morning (first I thought it was 5) was that he just to be let out; at the lake this is a relatively easy matter. I recognized it was six because the sun was coming up, beautiful red sky on the eastern shore, and so looked at the clock. I considered washing my face, brushing my teeth, putting on a suit and going out in the kayak to enjoy the first light. I decided to try to go back to sleep.

Not terribly successful. It couldn’t have been 15 minutes, no real sleep, when the door was scratched and Yonkel needed to come back in. OK, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and put on a suit ready to go out. But not in the kayak; how could I leave the dogs? Fry was still outside, and Yonkel would want to come. OK, I could take the rowboat, and attach the electric trolling motor that is in the shed, using the marine batteries that faithfully stay charging in the bedroom closet for just such an event. I knew getting ready would take a while, but I could bring my dogs.

Well, of course, the rowboat had been moved over to the other side of the put-in, as it had been lying on the concrete and rocks right below the tree that had burned down last week and was now a stump. (That’s another story.) The boat was lying on top of the sailboat hull, and first I had to turn it over. Not a light boat, all steel, but heck, that’s probably why it didn’t burn. And haul it down the concrete put-in to the water. Let’s just say was not easy; it is easier to pull from the front, but this was not an option.

I had carried the battery down to the water already, so just had to go back to the house for the crawling-insect spray, get the motor and oars and life vest from the shed, attach the motor and the battery, get the dogs in the boat, and go off into the fast-lightening but still definitely misty morning. I got the spray and sprayed the boat. In the shed, the oars were near the door (Jimmy and the kids must have used them). I note, with some satisfaction that my work had been worth it, that the kayak is kind of buried and would involve some work to pull out. I put on my life vest (too tight; found it had been adjusted for a kid and fixed it), found the motor in the corner, lifted it, put it down on my sandaled foot (not too hard). Grabbed the oars in one hand, and the motor in the other and stepped down from the shed onto the little two-step to the ground.

Only got to the first before I found myself on my back, in some pain having banged it on the lower step and my head on the doorway as I had gone down fast, slipping on the wet, slanted wood step. Darn! I did this last year! I should remember to be careful  when stepping out of the shed. Onto a wet step. And especially when the bottoms of my Tevas are covered with mud from walking around moving the boat on the wet dirt. (This latter I noticed later.)

Luckily, I am not too hurt. Could have been but am not. Maybe the life vest cushioned my fall (right). Get up, get the oars and motor and take them down to the rowboat. Its stern has moved a little further out, and it is rocking more (someone had gone by, even this early, with a power boat. You may be planning to fish using your electric trolling motor, but you need that 95hp gas motor to get you the half mile from the dock to the fishing spot fast!). I put the oars in the locks, grab the motor, and carefully (I am capable of learning) make my way to the stern and fasten the electric motor. I carefully make my way back, and retrieve the battery, and bring it back to the stern so I can attach it to the motor.

I could have attached it, but chose not to. This is because it would have been useless, as I now note 1 inch segment of the power cord which is not there (only the red half). Good old pack rats! Add this to the list of sail sheets, foam rubber pads, power motor pull cords, and pieces of the orange extension cord that are no longer usable.

Well, too much done to abandon ship. I have the oars. I call the dogs. No response. I call again. Finally Yonkel shows up; Fry is nowhere to be seen. I invite Yonkel into the boat. He evinces no interest. I coax him. No. I push off, to show him I am serious, then float back to pick him up. He sits there, smiling. I call him again. He gets up and comes to within two feet of the boat. No closer. The heck with it. I go off rowing by myself.

Not too far; rowing backwards means you can’t see where you are going, rowing forwards is slow. And the tholes are attached to the oars too far down, so the ends of the oars hit me in the (lifevest-protected!) chest as I come to the middle. But still pretty; I go into the mist-covered cove nearby, and see what must be a weasel of some kinds scampering around on one of the docks. First I thought it was a squirrel, but it is a little too long and lean and what would a squirrel be doing down on the dock and the rocks next to it anyway? I had forgotten the binoculars (probably would have been around my neck and damaged in the fall, anyway) and by the time I am close enough to further identify him using a book (weasel? Stoat? Ferret? Too small for an otter…) he is hidden in the rocks.

I startle the Great Blue Heron who lives in the cove and he flies off majestically. When I head back, probably out for less than a half-hour, Yonkel is happily waiting. I put away motor and battery and pull the boat up and go in to make coffee. Yonkel comes in, Fry (who has reappeared) stays outside. Next time, back to the kayak.

Note: I have it on good authority that it was a mink!
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Colorado Rockies July 2011

For a change of pace, this is a diary of our vacation. It had pictures, but they are too hard to put in to this blog. I'll put in a couple and here is the link to the rest:  https://picasaweb.google.com/jfreeman3/ColoradoJuly2011#

Colorado, July 2011

We left Kansas City about 1pm on Friday, July 1, one of the hottest days of the year with temperatures of 105 and above, headed west in Pat’s new VW Jetta Sportswagen diesel, to see if we really could get 40 mpg. It would have been crowded with the dogs, but the YMCA of the Rockies doesn’t allow pets in the lodge, and we couldn’t get a cabin, so Yonkel and Fry are staying with friends.

It was a long and hot (well, we had the AC!) trip across Kansas and eastern Colorado, but the high plains have a beauty of their own that  we have come to appreciate in the years we have lived here. We arrived in Denver after dark, even with the hour time gain and the longest days of the year, and stayed in a motel near Golden. Saturday we headed up I-70 and then US 40, through the Berthoud  Pass and the winding roads along the Continental Divide, through Empire, Winter Park, and Fraser until arriving, just past Tabernash, at the YMCA-R Snow Mountain Ranch. Huge, with many trails that are for Nordic skiing in winter and mountain biking (Winter Park calls itself the Mountain Biking Capital of the World) in summer. The most obvious anomaly is the huge amount of clear cutting, piles of logs, which we will later find all over the area, and I will address later.

Nice room, checked in and ready to start hiking before 1. Revelation Point is a 3-mile round trip with, we are told, good views, right on the grounds, trailhead at the end of the cabin road. OK. First we walk to the end of the cabin road. It is a good mile from our lodge and mostly uphill, probably a 100-200 foot gain. No big deal, except we’re puffing. Yesterday we were at 450 ft above sea level in KC, and now we’re at 8750. Maybe higher; that’s at the administration building. We tried anyway, and got probably half-way up the hill. But short of breath and my pulse racing at 160/min trying to get oxygen, even tired after resting, we headed down. I guess that the idea of acclimatizing, “getting used to the altitude, has merit. Increase the supply of 2,3-DPG (for the doctors and physiologists).

After a rest and recuperation, we went to the adult swim in the pool; still hard at this altitude for Pat; for me too, but it would be hard anyway because I haven’t done lap swimming in years. Had dinner at the Commons, good simple food. Breakfasts are included with the room fee, but lunches and dinners are a set fee (I think $9 and $14) with all you can eat. I ate a very good tilapia. For dinners there is enough meat/fish and salad for me, even with a very low carb diet.

Sunday, July 3

This is a busy weekend, of course, at the YMCA-R, with lots of planned activities for the many families and groups. We plan to partake of, well, few. Maybe none. We did another hike on the grounds, to a Waterfall, again about 3 miles, some elevation gain near the end but not much. Lots of little signs with   pictures of the wildflowers (some common ones we will see again and again, like larkspur and lupine and aster and columbine,  and ones we wouldn’t see again, like corn lily (imagine a lily  whose leaves look like corn). Very lovely waterfall, cool and comfortable.

That afternoon we drove into Winter Park and stopped at stores where we bought hiking poles (Mountain Smith) on sale, and got good advice from the staff on good, more or less level, hikes in the area (much more useful than the YMCA-R program people, who knew mostly on-the-grounds and more difficult high hikes). We then proceeded just south of Winter Park to walk/hike a trail along the Jim Creek that is (mostly) wheelchair accessible, supported by several foundations. There is, almost everywhere, a LOT of water this year; the creeks are running very high, and creating new channels and streams, making a lot of the trails muddy. This trail is in large part boardwalk over the marsh, so prevents problems with that. About 2.3 miles, past some lovely ponds and great views and a very rushing creek. We ate early, before this hike, and developed a pattern of light eating (cheese and peanut butter for me, other more carby stuff for Pat) either earlier or later. On the way back we checked out the ways to the trails for tomorrow, and went north of the YMCA-R to Granby Ranch, a resort development which is south of Granby and has a ski lift (SolVista) mostly used for mountain bikers but free for hikers. Unfortunately, open only Friday and Saturday.

In the evening we broke in our new poles and did the Sunset Walk at the YMCA-R, took 45 minutes or so there and back, very nice; there are signposts along the way which feature the text of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree (outbound) and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax  (inbound). We bought them to increase stability, help knees, but discover that using arms as well as legs increases the calorie usage by about 50% and gives something of an upper body workout. And makes hiking seem a lot like Nordic skiing.

Monday

So we are still getting up kind of early, given the time change, have breakfast at the Commons (usually some kind of meat for me, ham or turkey or regular sausage – one day only corned beef hash, with potatoes, so we bought some pre-cooked bacon to put in our in-room microwave if it happened again; it didn’t). We go for the hike the store guy recommended the day before, just west of Fraser starting at the St. Louis campground, the Creekside trail (lovely through the woods, about 2 miles) and back on the Flume trail, on the other side of the river, at least an extra half-mile, maybe more. First taste of mosquitoes here in the cool, wet woods, so we plan to buy bug repellant.

In the afternoon/evening we did something.

Tuesday

We decided to do a hike around Monarch Lake, a small lake just to the east of Lake Granby. Lake Granby, a few miles north of the town of Granby is a huge reservoir with lots of boating and coves. Our route took us along the south shore, crossing Granby Dam, with the Colorado (which feeds it) flowing out hundreds of feet below us. Lake Granby, it seemed to us, was low; odd given how much water was everywhere else; must have been releasing a lot. The Monarch Lake trailhead is beautiful, and a non-hiker could sit there and read for the whole couple of hours waiting for hiking companions to return. The lake is pretty much rectangular, with the long sides probably 4x the short. There is a significant dog-ear extension that goes quite a ways extra around on the NE corner into the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, making the hike about 4 miles. It is relatively flat (all of these “relatively flat” hikes have some significant ups and downs; on a loop like Monarch Lake there is no net gain), going through lots of forest, wetland (esp on the North) and near the end (going clockwise; you obviously can go either way) featuring an old, rusted steam logging engine. On the way out, we passed a ruined cabin, and on a woodpile was an animal -- ? marten? Beaver? Later figured out it was a marmot (see “Wednesday”) – also saw an osprey.

We did something else on Tuesday afternoon, and then after dinner in the Commons actually did an organized activity – square dancing. Josh is not a pro, but did ok, although the altitude is still having an impact, requiring more breaks. I can now not only do-si-do, swing, and promenade my partner but even do a Virginia Reel. Rain this evening; we had been anticipating thunderstorms in the afternoons so bigger hikes in the ams, but the weekend was pretty dry altogether; this is the first real rain.

Wednesday

Well, we’re getting a little more altitude adjusted, and becoming pretty handy with our poles, so decide to do an alpine tundra hike. Unfortunately, we are also getting time adjusted, and needing a lot of sleep at this altitude, so we’re getting up later, although we did hear folks talking one morning and saw a moose go by a hundred yards away or so.

We go way north, up US 34 past Lake Granby and Grand Lake into the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), and continue about 50 miles more on this road (called Trail Ridge Road) that traverses the whole RMNP all the way to Estes Park. Our destination is over in the eastern part of the park, a tundra trail at about 12,000 feet that we have seen called “Tombstone Ridge” but the map calls the Ute Trail. The road is many climbing switchbacks past many meadows with herds of elk (when there are cars stopped at the side of the road there is something to see!)  We pass lots of snow covered fields, glaciers really, with snow-capped peaks all around. We are close to 1pm when we start up the trail, and it is magnificent; tundra above the tree line but with all the wildflowers  (note: at even the 8000-9000 feet of most of our hikes in Colorado, it is like Spring further east, with all wildflowers in bloom) characteristic of this biome; flat but colorful. Also close encounters with marmots, who scoot in and out. Lots o f elk and moose scat, but no sightings. These marmots are Yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventrus), a little leaner it seems than their relatives the Groundhog or Woodchuck (Marmot momax) that we have at home. Marmots are a genus of the Family of ground squirrels (Sciuridae), also including chipmunks and prairie dogs, which are eventually part of the order Rodentia in the Class Mammalia…

We planned a couple of miles, but short of this the dark skies produced thunder and lightning and so we turned back. We also learned how much one can book even at 12,000 feet when highly motivated! The rain caught us just at the end, but we got in the car before the hail! Heading back we stopped at a couple of places, including a small lake called Lake Irene, where there was a lot of snow; indeed we found two picnic tables pretty much buried in snow. However, not so cold; indeed I killed a mosquito before it got me. I had hiked the tundra in shorts and a T-shirt – dumbly forgot a fleece – but it wasn’t so bad.

On the way back, we stopped at a marina on the shores of Lake Granby, where we actually had quite a nice late lunch; Pat had the stuffed trout special, and I had elk medallions. Very good.

We did something that evening.

Thursday

Now feeling ready for climbing a bit, we return to the RMNP, but just few miles inside the entrance, to take the Green Mountain trail as far as Big Meadow. It is a 2 mile hike pretty up –about 1000 foot gain, and not easy, but we could do it, which wouldn’t have been true a few days earlier. Very nice hike up through the forest. At the end we did a .2 mile detour to see the south end of the Big Meadow, and then did another .5 mile north and back, passing a ruined cabin. One can continue on around and come back in 7.6 total miles with about another several hundred feet gain and loss, but we headed back, totaling about 5 miles, maybe a little more. The Big Meadow is – a big meadow. Lots of water running through it.
Very beautiful. On the way back, we stopped for a late lunch in Grand Lake, on the north shore of – Grand Lake, which is just north of Lake Granby. Grand Lake is a definite tourist town with lots of hotels and restaurants, one of which we ate in, very nice.

Then we headed west on US 40 about 9 miles from Granby to Hot Sulphur Springs. We found the resort, paid our fee, put on our suits, and tried a number of the 18 sulphur pools that get pretty much hotter as you head up the hill; top temps are over 110 (too hot); 107-108 was hot enough and a few degrees cooler was something we could sit in for a while. And then lie on lounge chairs. Came back totally refreshed and relaxed and ready for bed, after a walk around the grounds of YMCA-R.

Friday

We decided we didn’t have to hike today; very overcast in the am. Made reservations for a horseback ride, and went to breakfast. Two-hour trail ride began at 10:30, and as usual on trail rides, nice to see parts of the woods and grounds that we couldn’t as easily do on foot (at least in that time). Pat and I picked up the rear on two relatively docile and slow horses, mine needing a lot of kicking to go. I discovered the angle for kicking was hard on my right knee; fortunately Pat had trouble with her left knee, so in future we can lean on each other with two good knees between us! It wasn’t until it was over that I realized how sore my tailbone was, making it very difficult to sit. Pretty raw also. Still hurting.

So, after a nap, we went back to the SolVista ski area at Granby Ranch and took the chairlift up with our hiking poles about 1000 feet (8200 to 9200) and on a sunny afternoon at 4:30 took off on a crest trail. Beautiful view of the mountains at the start. We passed by 2 trails down, opting for one farther south, Rabbit Run, for a longer hike. Worked well, although the sky was threatening about the time we started down, and an hour or more later when we reached the base (walking through woods, mostly) we were getting wet. But not too heavy a rain, and no hail. Then ate at the Seven Trails Grille because it was there and GREAT FOOD! Really good chef. I’d buy a condo here so I’d never have to cook! I had a Greek Kasseri cheese and spinach stuffed meatloaf (lamb and beef) and wonderful gazpacho! Pat had great salad and outstanding Margherita pizza. There was a lot more on the menu; including a great-looking mussels special.

And now back in the room, writing a bit, and moving my tailbone to different positions. Tomorrow, another short hike south of Winter Park and then heading home to KC.